If you are reading this, you probably like guns. A lot. Most likely you own several, want to buy several more, and really enjoy shooting them. Some portion of you have guns for defense of hearth and home. And the truly dedicated among you take self defense classes and work on becoming ‘well regulated’.
And while I appreciate and fully support that, I would also like to bring to your attention a big part of your life when you are at risk: when you are driving. The fact is, if we studied actuarial tables, we would see that you are much more likely to get hurt in a vehicle than by a violent attack.
So with this in mind, I’ve started a series of articles and accompanying videos on the subject of vehicles. We’ll look at ‘Performance Driving’ which is any driving pushing beyond normal day to day driving. Thus, road racing, defensive, evasive, and offensive driving techniques will be subjects of discussion.
In this first segment let’s examine what I’m looking for in a ‘Self Defense Vehicle’. We don’t often think of vehicles in terms of self defense, but it will make sense as we go along.
There are a number of factors that I want in a ‘SDV’:
Full frame construction. This will give the vehicle the rigidity needed for rough use. Such as if you need to push something out of your way, jump a curb, side walk or other obstacle, or just survive taking a hit from another car.
Good ground clearance. For the same reasons of being able to deal with obstacles as noted above. Also, a taller vehicle affords you a better view of your surroundings.
4 wheel drive. Traction is important and I want lots of it. This is obviously vital in conditions where road conditions are slick. Not just snow and sleet, but I’ve had to use 4 wheel drive to get up rain slick roads on steep grades. If you need to take a detour off road, the extra traction will come in handy. A word of caution: put the vehicle into 4WD BEFORE you need it.
Good visibility. The tactical and self defense crowd stress the importance of awareness and avoidance as key to staying safe and they are absolutely right. Awareness and avoidance are also important in driving. I want a vehicle with good visibility all around. Look for a vehicle with tall windows and good mirrors. An additional benefit of a vehicle with good ground clearance is a high ride height that puts your eyes higher off the ground, letting you see over other vehicles.
Air Conditioning. Being able to keep your windows up in urban areas, at stop lights, will make it harder for someone on the side of the road to attack you. A thief won’t be able to reach in and grab your things, nor assault you directly.
Power windows, door locks and mirrors. Being able to control the function of these things at the click of a button, from the driver’s seat is a Very Good Thing.
As Heinlein said in “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,” TANSTAAFL: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” There is a price to pay if you want the above listed features in your vehicle. Initial cost of the vehicle will be higher, gas economy won’t be good, and tires will be more expensive. Those are all costs I’m willing to pay for the confidence I get from driving a competent vehicle.
Peter Burlingame is a two time graduate of the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving “Executive Protection/Anti-kidnapping” class. He is a nationally recognized instructor in the dynamic use of firearms. In addition to running his own school, The Self Defense Initiative, based on St Thomas, in the Virgin Islands, he also volunteers his services providing instructor development classes for the International Association of Firearms Instructors and the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association. You may contact him at via email.